RE: Shed of the Week | Mazda RX-8

RE: Shed of the Week | Mazda RX-8

Friday 1st November 2019

Shed of the Week | Mazda RX-8

Still cheap, still fun, still potentially quite frail - here's why you might be tempted by a cheap RX-8



Anybody know what the word Renesis means? It's written on the top of the engine cover of Mazda RX-8s.

If there is an answer to this, it's quite well hidden by the internet. Shed's best guess is that it's a mashup of genesis (the Biblical startup event rather than the public schoolboy band), with an R at the front signifying rotary. Whatever the accuracy of that theory may be, Renesis meant a change to a Multi-Side Port exhaust system, boosting power and reducing fuel consumption and emissions relative to the company's earlier peripherally-ported rotaries.

All of which was great for Mazda, but for customers Renesis still meant trouble. Mazda knew that at the time, too. Shed remembers testing one of the first UK RX-8s and being somewhat flummoxed by the sight of a large flagon of oil in the boot and a plea from Mazda UK's press department to for god's sake please check the oil level on every petrol fill thank you very much.


Thing is though, if you can put up with the high running costs honestly pointed out in the ad by the vendor - 20mpg in vaguely sporting use and a scary top-level tax rate of Β£570 a year - the RX-8 is an absolute jewel. Producing up to 228hp from 1.3 litres - although the twin-rotor motor was regarded as a 2.6-litre for the purposes of receiving 'best engine' awards, something it did on a pretty regular basis - the spinny rather than up-and-down-bangy nature of the engine gave it an insatiable appetite for revs. So much so that Mazda had to fit a warning buzzer to remind folk that even their engineering brilliance had limits.

But how do you fend off the well documented gen-one RX-8 evil of poor or non-existent hot starting caused by a lack of compression when the rotor apex seals wear out for want of adequate lubrication? The vendor's own solution, and one that a few RX-8 owners have copped on to, has been to chuck a dod of two-stroke oil into the petrol tank every couple of fills to give the car's own oil metering pump injectors a helping hand in keeping the rotor apex seals healthy. This remedy is also thought to soften the carbon buildup that can happen if you chug around at low rpm all the time. Smart owners know that 'a redline a day keeps the carbon away'. Stuff called Sea Foam is also popular for de-carboning but probably not if your car still has a cat.

Some do say that if the OMP is working (which it doesn't always do - they have a reputation for failing at around 80,000 miles) you shouldn't need to go down this route, but if you use your RX-8 hard or you have a goodly mileage on the clock then Lambretta/Fizzie style premixing won't do any harm and may even be a good idea. Around 100-125ml a tankful is thought to be about right. Much more than that and your car will start to smell like a chainsaw.


Our 2007 Shed is from the back end of the gen-one Eights. A 2008 refresh braced up the suspension, but even in unbraced gen-one form the RX-8's double-wishbone front, multi-link rear chassis needed no handling warnings. Minus fluids and ancillaries, the engine weighed less than 115kg, a ridiculously small amount sitting well back in the car. In combination with the rear-wheel drive allowed the suspension to be set up to provide a measure of lightfooted delicacy. The Bilstein-suspended R3 model of 2009, which Shed also tested, was not far short of wonderful.

This particular RX-8 lived a very quiet life for its first three years, accumulating fewer than 12,000 miles in that time. Having passed the MOT in June 2010, it was given another test two months later, possibly to ease the progress of a sale to a nervous buyer. More conventional (but still low) annual mileages followed for the next four years, at which point the usage dropped back down again. Just 12,000 miles have been covered in the last five years.

Now that it stands at 54,000, what problems might its next owner expect? Well, nothing to do with cambelts, valves, lifters, or even conventional crankshafts for a start, because it doesn't have any of those. Early RX-8 problems associated with the suspension, fuel tank leakage and exploding steering wheel airbags (eek) were sorted on recall, or should have been anyway. Fogging and condensation in the lights at either end are down to poor quality gaskets. The central armrest lid is famed for losing its ability to latch shut, the sun-visors fall apart and the gen-one starter motor is pants. It can and should be cheaply replaced by an aftermarket item. The catalytic converters don't last that long. Poor performance or a 'check engine' light might be malfunctioning oxygen sensors, but can just as easily be down to the cat. Premix can hasten a cat's demise, but decat systems are of course available.


For possibly the first time, unfavourable yen exchange rates came in quite handy for a car manufacturer in that they provided Mazda with an extra excuse for binning the RX-8 (on top of it failing Euro 5) in the summer of 2011, two years after an extra oil injection port has been added to lift the lubrication injector count to six. The last European RX-8s were sold a year earlier, in 2010.

Today, in 2019, it's well-nigh impossible to pay more than Β£7k for an RX-8, and more often than not you'll pay considerably less. Like here, where the bill will be Β£1,450. If you've never tried one, you really should, especially at this low-risk level.

Which brings us back to the beginning, or the genesis, of this story. Mrs Shed likes a spot of Genesis. Her favourite track is In Too Deep, but whenever she is feeling flirty enough to pop that onto the Dansette, Shed quickly reaches for his own well-used copy of Invisible Touch. At which point he usually becomes a Man On The Corner, in a Land Of Confusion.


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Author
Discussion

kainedog

Original Poster:

340 posts

123 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
I like the looks , quirkiness but the reliability , thirst and suspiciously cheapness puts me off. Ls swapped examples make sense

the_hood

457 posts

143 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Still looks good but unreliability, low mpg and high tax would put me off.

Edited by the_hood on Friday 1st November 06:11

shortar53

498 posts

222 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Had one. In this exact colour in fact.

Best car I've ever driven... But ruinously expensive, 200 miles on a tank of petrol, 240 on a run.
Took a slight bump to the passenger side exiting a mini roundabout when the geriatric turning left decided it was a T-junction and he had right of way, it was never the same afterwards, the engine gave out not long after I'd part exchanged it.

GTEYE

1,478 posts

159 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Some cars are cheap for a reason. This is one. Run it until it breaks, then throw it away. Or just avoid.

Cambs_Stuart

736 posts

33 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
I know abput the appaling fuel consumption, frail engine, appetite for expensive consumables (like coil packs and leads) but i still want one.
They sound fantastic, the rear doors are cool and apparently they're nice to drive too.

Truckosaurus

7,278 posts

233 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
the_hood said:
...unreliability...
At least it is a predictable unreliability. They'll never leave you stranded at the side of the road but you have to treat the engine as a consumable item.

If you are in the market for a £2k car I don't think you should get an RX8, but if you were in the market for a £5k, buy a £2k-3k RX8 and save the rest towards the extra tax, fuel and a new engine at some point.

sgtBerbatov

1,775 posts

30 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
As I've given the wife notice to find her own damn car instead of using one of mine, she's been looking around for one. She wants a sports car, something sexy, but as she's had cheap motoring for the last 5 years (as in, I pay for the maintenance of the car etc, she only has to deal with putting fuel in it), she doesn't want to get in to a PCP or finance deal. The one moment she took vauge interest in me going on eBay looking for a Mazda RX8 gearbox for a project, she asked what an RX8 was. So I showed her. She liked it. She then went on Auto Trader and couldn't believe how cheap they were. I told her why. The tax is expensive, milleage is crap, engine needs rebuilding after a specific point in time, and she looked at me and said it's a sports car though. And she's right.

If you look at an RX8 as a daily, like you would do a Mondeo, then yeah it's ridiculously expensive. But if you look at it as a sports car, something to hoon about in on a Sunday or for a weekend away, then yeah it makes more sense.

Nigel_O

1,717 posts

168 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
No mention of the lack of torque - just 160 lb-ft. I’ve never driven one, but the low torque figure (and its peak at 5,500rpm) must mean that it has to be revved fairly hard just to make half-decent progress.

Do owners just get used to it? Does it even matter? Does the engine feel “busy” when cruising, or is it so smooth that it feels right?

I remember driving an Accord Type-R (or was it an S, I can’t remember) for a while - whilst it went well, 4,000 rpm on the motorway got pretty tiresome after a while

Probably the closest thing yet to a “disposable shed” - risk £1500 and run it until it breaks and then sell it for spares. It might last a month, it might last a year, but as long as it’s not been used for a daily city commute, it could be quite entertaining.

stavr0ss

34 posts

77 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
The low overall weight makes the low torque fairly inconsequential, I test drove a 230hp rex with two adult male passengers and it didn’t feel sluggish, the throttle response was scalectrix like and the balance was sublime. Only reason I didn’t go for it was a needed a daily for a 7mile commute and all indications were that this would be a death sentence for a renesis engine. Now I’m in the market for a weekend toy again these are looking seriously tempting.

Lotusgone

164 posts

76 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
This wants to be a damn special car to justify £50 per month on tax and 30p+ per mile on petrol. Perhaps it should be listed under Brave Pill?

waftycranker

54 posts

9 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Fantastic cars. I got a reliable 18mpg when I had mine, whether on a steady motorway run or a B road thrash.

Don’t know why the economy and high tax put people off. Those two things along with the supposed ‘unreliability’ are subsidising this by making the values so low. I paid £4,500 for mine about 7 years ago, the equivalently powered piston engines car e.g BMW 330 would have been over 10k for similar age, mileage and condition.at that time.

Some bits of the interior felt flimsy but on the flip side it had great seats and the best stereo I’ve ever had in a car.

humphra

101 posts

41 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
The front number plate on the advertised car..... I'm just wondering how many times that's been re-affixed after an encounter with speed bumps??

swampy442

181 posts

160 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Writer missed a trick there, should have opened with 'Do you know what Renesis means?' Bricktop style biggrin

All this car needs is a turbo 13b under the bonnet, and its pretty much done, they handle really nicely and who can resist suicide doors?
Sticking V8s, JZ's etc under there is slightly missing the point IMO.

waftycranker

54 posts

9 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Nigel_O said:
No mention of the lack of torque - just 160 lb-ft. I’ve never driven one, but the low torque figure (and its peak at 5,500rpm) must mean that it has to be revved fairly hard just to make half-decent progress.

Do owners just get used to it? Does it even matter? Does the engine feel “busy” when cruising, or is it so smooth that it feels right?
I don’t get this obsession people seem to have with the lack of torque. It’s got a gearbox, just use it properly and get the revs up. It’s a quick car, if you want to overtake just drop a cog or two and wizz pass at over 7k rpm. Lovely stuff.

If I recall correctly it sat at about 3.5k rpm when at 70 in 6th. The the engine is really like a turbine, smoother than anything else.

I don’t like that RX8’s are being treated as disposable. The engine is essentially just eight big lumps of metal with some seals inside. There is loads of room in that engine bay I don’t see it being beyond anybody reasonably competent to change the seals themselves when it starts getting compression issues. I’d certainly attempt it and I’m a lazy, lazy man.

samoht

1,098 posts

95 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Great shed, although I can't help but think that you either want one registered before 23rd March 2006, and get a vaguely normal rate of road tax, or you get a 2008- one which has some moderately significant mechanical improvements in exchange for the extra cost, some of which might help the engine last a bit longer.


Frimley111R

10,275 posts

183 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
sgtBerbatov said:
If you look at an RX8 as a daily, like you would do a Mondeo, then yeah it's ridiculously expensive. But if you look at it as a sports car, something to hoon about in on a Sunday or for a weekend away, then yeah it makes more sense.
Indeed. I work from home and drive very few miles so one of these would have all the benefits and none of the disadvantages.

Cupra Black

2,951 posts

167 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Brought a 2005 model when it was a couple of years old, ran it as a company car so I didnt pay for fuel smile

Great handling car (could be interesting in the wet with s**t tyres) and worked well with small kids too due to the doors. Fitted a Borla Exhaust which made it sound pretty good.

If they are looked after well they are not as bad as everyone thinks (mine used very little oil).

The problem is many were brought by people who probably never checked the oil or followed the cold start procedure so the problems would then occur.

The day I sold it the coil packs went (so did the CAT which is the norm). Luckily it was covered under Mazda warranty but pretty crap for the new buyer.


cerb4.5lee

13,341 posts

129 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
I've always wanted one of these but I've never been brave enough. I like the looks and my preference has always been RWD with a manual gearbox and a LSD. So these certainly tick the box for me.

I'd love a go in one for sure.

Phil Dicky

5,885 posts

212 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
Do as I did..buy one, spend £2.5k with Rotary Revs and enjoy the car. Was easily the best handling car I've owned.

Rotary Potato

48 posts

45 months

Friday 1st November 2019
quotequote all
This particular car is a no from me.

If you're going to RX8, why limit yourself to the 7.5k revs of the 192 model.

The full fat 231 revved all the way up to 9k (and beyond with a tweak to the limiter), and with the whole point of a wankel engine being revs, surely you'd want the one that has more of them? There's no downsides to the 231 compared to a 192 (192 isn't cheaper to run, not lower tax, not more reliable, etc.), so literally can't see a single reason to pick one.

Had two of the rascals, one at well below shed money, and a PZ special edition one at just above. When they work, they are great (little to no steering feel, but otherwise very little to complain about) ... but the engine reliability completely dragged me down and I've since moved on to a 986 Porsche Boxster S.